Break out the rain gauge -- CoCoRaHS wants you

Rain falls over the Verde Valley in Arizona

With apologies to Creedence Clearwater Revival: Who'll gauge the rain? How about you?

In a ceremony at the American Meteorological Society headquarters in Boston on March 2, Massachusetts will formally be welcomed to the ranks of states taking part in a volunteer program for tracking rain, hail, and snowfall around the country.

It's called CoCoRaHS (pronounced a bit like a breakfast cereal). It's run out of Colorado State University, in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its National Weather Service.

The goal is to build a dense network of precipitation measuring-sites to help provide consistent, high-quality precipitation data to state and local water managers, researchers, and federal hydrologists who monitor conditions for the potential for flooding.

Of course, for the measurements to be consistent from one place to the next, participants have to use the same type of rain gauge. So be prepared to pony up between $23 and $31 to buy the project's standard. It's a manual gauge, so you might get wet making that 7 a.m. measurement. But that's why they invented Gortex! The project's website has links to a couple of sources.

The program began partly in response to a deadly flood that hit the university's home town of Fort Collins in 1997. It was the worst flood in the city's 130-year history, triggered by a storm that brought 14.5 inches of rain in 31 hours.  Since then, the network has grown to more than 12,000 volunteers, according to the program's web site. The program's organizers say they hope to have 20,000 volunteer sites nationwide on the books by the end of 2010.

This year, six states are slated to join the network, leaving Arizona, Minnesota, and Connecticut as the only states yet to jump in.

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